Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 153, Issue 4, pp 554–572 | Cite as

The thalamo-cortical auditory receptive fields: regulation by the states of vigilance, learning and the neuromodulatory systems

  • Jean-Marc EdelineEmail author


The goal of this review is twofold. First, it aims to describe the dynamic regulation that constantly shapes the receptive fields (RFs) and maps in the thalamo-cortical sensory systems of undrugged animals. Second, it aims to discuss several important issues that remain unresolved at the intersection between behavioral neurosciences and sensory physiology. A first section presents the RF modulations observed when an undrugged animal spontaneously shifts from waking to slow-wave sleep or to paradoxical sleep (also called REM sleep). A second section shows that, in contrast with the general changes described in the first section, behavioral training can induce selective effects which favor the stimulus that has acquired significance during learning. A third section reviews the effects triggered by two major neuromodulators of the thalamo-cortical system—acetylcholine and noradrenaline—which are traditionally involved both in the switch of vigilance states and in learning experiences. The conclusion argues that because the receptive fields and maps of an awake animal are continuously modulated from minute to minute, learning-induced sensory plasticity can be viewed as a "crystallization" of the receptive fields and maps in one of the multiple possible states. Studying the interplays between neuromodulators can help understanding the neurobiological foundations of this dynamic regulation.


Thalamo-cortical auditory receptive fields Vigilance Learning Neuromodulatory systems Receptive fields Learning-induced sensory plasticity 



It is a pleasure to thank Norman Weinberger and Elizabeth Hennevin for detailed and insightful comments on a preliminary version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Neurobiologie de l'Apprentissage de la Mémoire et de la CommunicationUniversité Paris-Sud91405 OrsayFrance
  2. 2.NAMCUniversité Paris-Sud91405 OrsayFrance

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